Opinion: Advice to the class of 2012— Prepare, be flexible, don’t stress

By Roger Li

Editor’s note: Former intern Roger Li wrote this before heading off for college. He arrived there before tropical storm Irene.

I’m sitting on the floor of my newly cleaned-out room, contemplating what college life will be like and reflecting on my last year of high school. In a few hours, I’ll be boarding a plane to New York City. A few thoughts run through my mind; did I forget to pack my toothbrush? Will I be forced to eat lunch alone in the bathroom? What advice should I give in my final column?

Surprisingly, the last question is one of the hardest to answer. College admissions were so all-encompassing that it’s difficult to pinpoint “what every high school senior should know.”

An aspiring marine biologist from The Bishop’s School, a star swimmer from La Jolla Country Day, or even another political science major from La Jolla High would all have vastly different perceptions of the college admissions process.

My most essential piece of advice, as cliché as it sounds, would be to stay true to yourself. Don’t inflate your resume or apply under an obscure major to gain an edge. There are definitely ways that applicants can “work the system.” But usually, undergraduate admissions can see through these attempts. Writing about what you know will translate into acceptances.

Don’t be afraid to have fun with your personal statement. Make sure any risks taken are reasonable by consulting your peers or teachers. But if you’re a naturally funny person, allow your humor to enhance your essays.

Start your essays early! It might be a little late for this advice, but summer is the best time to start college applications. Last summer, I wrote several rough drafts. By the time I was inundated by schoolwork in the fall, I was grateful that my college application work consisted mostly of edits. At the very least, have an idea of what you want to write about.

Don’t stress too much. You can always drop a few applications. The process isn’t as intimidating as it seems. As long as you stay organized and keep deadlines in mind, you should breeze through the first semester of your senior year.

Lastly, remember that acceptance into your dream school isn’t everything. Columbia was not my first choice, but I could not be more ecstatic about where I’m headed.

With these last few pieces of advices, I want to say good luck. The college admissions process can be daunting, but hopefully what I’ve written helps you through it.